Forest Fun with 4×4 Friends

 

Before departing the UK sent a random email to the Moscow 4×4 Club explaining the winter journey I intended to undertake and asked did their members have any advice for me….which they did have….

 

Don’t do it.

 

The email was answered by the Captain of the Club….. Leonid …..who did pass on some helpful points and added that when (if) I got to Moscow to contact him by phone.

 

So I did, and they invited me to one of their club competition days in the forests outside Moscow near the town of Vladimir.

 

So I met Leonid at a car park on the edge of the city and followed him to the meet.

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When we arrived there was a decent collection of 4×4’s and their owners in attendance…..

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…it was quite a family affair with lots of children running about.

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But there was so much camo-clothing on display I thought maybe we were off to invade Georgia or some other former satellite.

I was quite a novelty not just because they all knew about the trip across the Russian north and that I was going to attend the rally, but that I speak no Russian and as such was a great source of mirth and laughter.

 

Then after driving down snow-filled forestry trails…

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The club assembled to start the competition in which each vehicle had to find their way to as many of the predetermined waypoints in forest as they could and photograph themselves at whatever the way point proved to be within a four hour time limit.

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As the truck didn’t have hardcore snow tires I was co-pilot to Raf (in the red jacket in previous pictures).

…. in his Land Rover (middle vehicle).

 

 

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We had a great time bashing, winching, and digging through the forest snow, and in the course of our in-car chit chat Raf told me he worked in ‘service’….

 

This turned out to mean the Federal Customs Service in which he held the rank of Major….seems he spends his time chasing down international drug smugglers and other criminal elements around Russia…

 

…I told him I thought that sounded pretty dang exciting.

 

Anyway……

 

Apparently during Soviet times the forest was a location where mobile nuclear missile launchers were deployed in the defence of Moscow.

 

But these days it’s just used by hunters, loggers, and groups of Moscow-based nutters getting lost in the forest……

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One of the waypoints was this abandoned church deep in the woods.

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There was a large extended family there having a party over an open fire pit with lots of foods and lots of vodka….:)

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They insisted that we eat….and gave us half a dozen hot sweet fat blinis (like a sweet pancake) with homemade blueberry preserves…..I almost left the car and stayed for the party with Sergeyev and his family there and then!

 

The church roof had been burned down and parts of the ruin filled with snow…

 

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and some local folk had placed icons in the ruins…

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and reset some of the grave markers (this one was dated 1878)….

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…this one too old to read.

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While having set replacement makers for those that had been destroyed….

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There was still faint signs of the former glory ……high on the walls

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Though it seemed as if the forest was intent of reclaiming the space…

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So after the competition ended and we returned to the base camp, the Club members turned out a huge feast around some open fires and then some games for the kids (as it was officially the last day of winter and it’s a traditional Russian holiday to celebrate the end of winter and the coming of spring)….

 

I was roped into the games and since I had apparently lost my challenge, I had to wear a bear costume (which obviously didn’t fit, except the head) and duly had to be a dancing bear for the kids….

 

…and I was pretty fuckin good even if I do say so myself!

 

I promise to publish them here if club emails me the pics relatively soon…..

 

After food, fun, and dancing bear games it seemed that 2 cars were lost….search parties were organised and off we went, me in Leonid’s truck this time, and amazing bit of kit with every imaginable toy on board….. Leonid told me that the phrase ‘he who dies with the most toys, wins’ translated perfectly into Russian,

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It was well after midnight when we called off the search…that’s when we found out that they had gone home earlier leaving the forest by another route without informing anyone….bastards…lol

 

So then, after following Leonid back to Moscow where he plied me with a breakfast pizza at his favourite café, it was all hearty good-byes and I was on my way yet again.

 

I have to say that this has been the ‘social’ high point of the journey so far…. I can’t thank Leonid and the members of the club for all their efforts in making me feel so welcome. They are a great bunch of people one and all.

 

…And I am now the representative of the Moscow 4×4 Club in the UK-Australia-and anywhere else I might end up.

 

…..and I’ve got my certificate to prove it.

 

A huge thank you to you all… and especially the  ‘Russian bear’ Leonid…..

..well which one looks like a big russian bear to you?

..well which one looks like a big russian bear to you?

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